Robert Moses 1888-1981

Parks & Recreation, December 2001 | Go to article overview

Robert Moses 1888-1981


Throughout his career in public works that spanned half a century Robert Moses earned his title, 'the master builder' by planning and building highways, parks, bridges, and recreation areas from 1919 until his retirement in 1968. He was an outspoken, fiery, controversial visionary whose strong character, energy, zeal, and singleness of purpose transformed the landscapes of New York State, New York City, and Long Island. His dedication to public service was both exemplary and legendary. He never received payment for public service, with the exception of his two years as Secretary of State in 1927-1928, until he became Park Commissioner in 1933.

He fought millionaires, politicians and high officials to preserve the natural beauty of Long Island, the Adirondacks, the Palisades, and the Jamaica Bay area of New York City. His influence extends from Montauk Point and Coney Island to the Niagara Frontier in New York City to various cities throughout this country and South America.

After obtaining academic degrees from Yale, Oxford and Columbia, Robert Moses started his career in public works in 1919 when Governor Alfred E. Smith appointed him the Chief of Staff of the New York State Reconstruction Commission.

In 1920 Moses presented a plan for statewide improvement in parks and highways. The opportunity to make his plan a reality came in 1924, when he was appointed by Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt, Herbert H. Lehman and Thomas E. Dewey to be head of the state park system of New York and serve as chairman of the Long Island State Parks Commission. Prior to 1924, New York State had no unified park system, and the only state park in the area was on Fire Island, a sand reef reached only by boat. …

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